From now until September 20, 2016 we have the opportunity to share feedback on what the province of Ontario should do with the 175 acres of land that were once the Huronia Regional Centre.
Ontario officially closed the last of its institutions for individuals with intellectual disabilities in 2009. Since this time, the province has quietly rid itself of many of these sites.
For example, all 354 acres of Rideau Regional Centre (in Smiths Falls) were sold through the Ontario Realty Corporation in 2011 for $100,000. With the private buyer planning to build a residential seniors complex. While South Western Regional Centre (in Chatham) was sold for a reported $150,000 and recently demolished with plans to develop separate parcels of land for hobby farms.
Yet the sale of these sites leaves activists and survivors with questions about how the redevelopment of these sites, particularly to private buyers, erases histories of abuse and the lived experiences of inmates. Given how private buyers have trivialized and exploited the history of these spaces south of the boarder, there are serious concerns the province needs to address.
There is no question these sites were oppressive and abusive. While there has been a successful class action lawsuit on behalf of survivors and the province has apologized, the province's redevelopment of these sites has helped erase these spaces and what survivors endured within them. More on the complexities of the redevelopment process can be found in a chapter I co-authored with Jijian Voronka in the book Disability Incarcerated.
These sites, while horrific, are an important part of the history of disability in this province, and speak to one of the many ways incarceration has been packaged and sold as a policy solution (a practice that continues today through various policy responses to disability). Please take a moment and take advantage of this opportunity to let the province know that respecting and preserving this history is important.